Mad Cow, Bad Cow: A Downer of a Story
Although "A Story of a Downer" would probably have been more accurate here, that wouldn't make much sense until you read the latest followup on the Alabama Mad Bad Cow story. For starters...
Documentation on an Alabama cow infected with mad cow disease has only been tracked to its most recent seller and agriculture officials on Friday said they weren't sure whether they would ever figure out its origins. [snip]
[Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Ron] Sparks said the only documentation investigators had was "that the cow was bought at an auction at a certain period of time which was about 12 months ago."
Well, as we discussed the other day, not only has no progress been made on a system for tracking cattle all the way from birth to you grocer's meat counter, but Our Wise Leaders (stop that snickering there! Yeah, you in the back!) have budgeted so as to cut testing for mad cow by 90%. Oh what the hell, go back to snickering.
But this update gives us some important information: The cow in question indeed had two calves that we know about. The younger, we are told, is 6 months old and presumed fine since
bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, has not been identified in cattle younger than 22 months and the disease is not known to pass from mother to calf.
Um, can I point out that the list of things we don't know about prion diseases is a great whacking lot longer than the list of things we do? Yeah, I know you know that, but Our Wise Leaders seem a little unclear on the matter. So what is it they do know for sure?
Sparks declined to reveal the farm at which the cow had spent the last year, saying he didn't want to hurt the farm's business or discourage other farmers from reporting "downer" animals â€” or those unable to walk â€” which is considered an indicator of mad cow.
Reporting downer animals is a voluntary action nationwide, Sparks said.
So can we start to see a solution here? Make the reporting mandatory, dammit. Once everyone has to do it, nobody is at a competitive disadvantage.
How to do it? Try this comparison: We have a system for titling cars in this country. We track the object from manufacture (birth) through every change of ownership (same) through eventual disposition at the junkyard (slaughterhouse.) This does not seem to be so burdensome a system as to prevent people from buying and trading cars, so why not cows?
Will it increase costs to consumers? Yeah, most likely; everything gets passed on if the alternative is to take a hit in profits. That's the system we've got.
Will it increase costs to producers? Yeah, sure, paperwork always does. But fer damsure not nearly much as a real mad cow scare is going to do, which is abso-posi-talootly gua-ron-damn-teed to happen under the current hodgepodge fuckup of a system that we've got.
The underlying truth is that meat needs to cost more than it does now. Does this make me happy? It does not. I eat meat at just about every meal.
But cheap meat just costs too much. It costs in everything from overuse of antibiotics (not used to treat infections, just put into the feed of ALL cattle because it makes them grow fatter faster in the feedlot) to the insane feedlot system itself (feeding corn to cows is stupid. Cows are machines for converting grass, not digestible by humans, into milk and meat which is) to near slave labor consitions in slaughterhouses and processing plants (which pays so poorly that only illegal aliens can be persuaded to do such work) to ....well, one could go on to discuss waste disposal issues and hormone/genetic engineering issues and indeed obesity issues.
But the cure for all of them is money, which will make meat cost more. I told you this was a downer of a story, didn't I? Pass the bean sprouts, please.